River Trail, Grand Canyon South Rim

Grand Canyon National Park
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River Trail

If extreme hiking and climbing are a traveler's dream then the River Trail in the Grand Canyon National Park is sure to please. This south rim trail is by no means for the novice and even an intermediate level hiker will find it taxing. It covers some 18 miles one way, making it a hike that should cover at least two days.

The Grand Canyon National Park's south rim also has canyon and river floor access through its beloved, but tedious River Trail. The trail is not something that can be done in one go, and most hikers camp out after completing the trip to and along the river, making the return journey the next day. However, not everyone can cope with its extreme undulation and climbs.

The first requirement for anyone attempting the trail is to get a backcountry permit because it goes without saying that overnight camping at the very least will be needed. Though more intermediatory in nature, a novice could do the trail if they allowed four days.

Most people start their hike at Yaki Point, hiking part of the South Kaibab Trail until they finally reach the descent down to the canyon floor and the river, which at that point becomes known as the River Trail. At that point most stop to admire the breathtaking views at the edge of the cliff tops, and many realize just how vast the canyon park really is, some changing their minds when they realize how far they have to walk to reach the river alone.

The River Trail is very steep to the point that in places one can virtually see the bottom as one descends. In fact, some find it rather daunting because the distance between the trail's starting point and the river is about one mile of slow hiking.

The trail terrain is very rugged, but very well kept. There are two brief stops, but unfortunately no water supplies, so taking plenty in a backpack is essential. As the descent continues the rock layers become noticeably different and old lava flows become clearly visible.

Once at the bottom, the river can only be crossed using a suspension bridge, leading hikers north. In a matter of minutes, everyone is rewarded with ancient native ruins and then a marker showing the point at which famous Grand Canyon explorer John Wesley had been to. Finally the trail rises up above the river, reaching the popular Bright Angel Campground, which resembles an old Wild West corral. At that end point, civilization takes hold with washrooms, telephones and plenty of water. However, the only way back is the way one came.